Manny Ramirez is coming back to Boston and the process will start all over again for David Ortiz.
What is Manny thinking? How is Manny feeling? When is the last time you talked to Manny?
Manny often times wouldn't talk about Manny. As a result, it often was expected that Ortiz would do the talking for him. It was, and is, a dynamic that the Red Sox designated hitter was forced to come to grips with, and continues to brace for as Ramirez' Friday return to Fenway as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers nears.
"Well, things got to the point where I was like Manny’s translator," Ortiz lamented. "I’m another human being right here and I have to do things on my own. I love Manny, he’s a great guy and a great player, but after the game was over, Manny’s life was different. Half an hour after the game was over, I didn’t know about Manny until 2:30 the next day. Me and Manny weren’t all over the place. Manny had his own personal life after the game was over.
"At the field, we were right up because we had no choice. I can count very few times when me and Manny hung out off the field. In the (six) years we played together, I can tell you it wasn’t more than a dozen. Manny has his own life off the field. He’s a good dude, people just get the wrong idea about him, but he likes his privacy. I think we were cool because I never got into his privacy."
Ortiz estimates that since Ramirez left the Red Sox he can count on one hand how many times he's talked with his former teammate. That's it. Yet throughout the 202 games Manny has played in a uniform other than the Red Sox since being shipped to the Dodgers on July 31, 2008, Ortiz has been asked about his communication with Ramirez at least a few times a month.
Ortiz understands why.
The two made up one of the most potent middle of the order threats in the history of baseball for the better part of five seasons. From 2003-07 the duo combined for 388 home runs, 1,210 RBI, 778 extra-base hits and, most important, 498 wins (28 in the postseason) and two World Series titles. They were both from the Dominican Republic. And, when in the public eye, the pair seemed best of friends.
"Since Manny was traded, to tell you the truth, if I had talked to Manny four times, that’s a lot," Ortiz explained. "That’s him though. I’ll bet that when he sees me he’s going to be jumping all over me, this and that, and wanting to do things, but that’s him though and I understand that. People believe that me and Manny were really together. It was so hard for me to reach out to Manny when we were playing together. Manny would call you and tell you, 'I’ll meet you in a little bit to go eat at 12.' You would be there until two and Manny wouldn’t show up. That’s him, that’s the way he is."
Still, despite the off-the-field disconnect, there was that at-the-park chemistry that has been missed by Ortiz since the departure of Ramirez.
"I do, I’m not going to lie to you," Ortiz said when asked if he missed Ramirez.
"Manny brings something different to the game that people don’t understand. Manny’s not an insecure person playing the game. Manny’s the kind of guy that it doesn’t matter how bad things are going, he still believes things are going to happen. That’s the best way to look at baseball because baseball is a long season. People sometimes believe that 10, 20, 40 games are going to determine what 162 games are going to be like. Manny doesn’t see it that way. I remember one year when Manny had 12 homers or something like that by the All-Star game. I think he finished like second in home runs that year, but he knows how to do it, he believes in himself."
It hasn't been difficult to decipher -- especially early on -- how the security blanket that was hitting in front of Ramirez affected Ortiz. In the two months after the left fielder's departure Ortiz .262 with nine homers, while his new protection, Kevin Youkilis, hit .319 with 11 homers.
Overall, without Ramirez, Ortiz has totaled 49 home runs in 251 games. Manny, on the other hand, has hit 41 homers with a .318 batting average since parting ways with the Red Sox.
Though they haven't gone to great lengths to put one another on their "friends and family" calling programs, it is clear, for whatever reason, the two miss each other.
In a similar stretch of time -- from Aug. 1, 2005-June 15, 2007 -- the numbers produced by the two were a step up from what has been almost two years now. During that span Ortiz hit 87 homers to go with a .300 batting average, while Ramirez totalled 60 home runs at a .313 clip. Yes, it isn't a fair comparison all things considered (injuries, age, etc.). But the picture it does paint is that of a better time for both.
"At the beginning when he left, it was not usual," Ortiz said. "It was something that pretty much everybody got used to seeing Manny. Personally, me and Manny had a great relationship and I learned a lot of things from him that had a lot to do with being a good hitter. He used to be on top of me pretty much all the time and scream at me. Manny wasn’t too much to talk about things, but with me it was something special because he wanted me to do well. He always worried about me like I worried about him.
"It was a relationship that was going back and forth on the field. If I would open up on a pitch he would scream at me, if he would do the same thing I would do the same thing. It was good for the team to win games and it was good for us to produce as middle-of-the-lineup hitters. I think it got contagious because next thing you know we were on top of everybody.
"[Him not being there was strange], I’m not going to lie to you. Manny used to have this way to be, a personality that he doesn’t really care about things, but I’m pretty sure that someday, sometime, he thinks about how cool it was when we were here and how much fun it was to pull for each other and make sure things were under control and have somebody to talk to."
Interestingly enough, however, is the fact that even in Ramirez' absence, Ortiz credits his former slugging partner with helping the DH to get through the tough times that presented themselves over the past two seasons.
It started with remembering lessons Ortiz picked up from Ramirez upon the beginning of their time as teammates, and went from there.
"Basically, when I got here to Boston, I started watching Manny pretty close, his approach and his preparation. I wondered why he was such a good hitter but he works like nobody I ever met," Ortiz said. "As a hitter, everybody knows that the guy gets ready to hit. A good student is not someone who wants to figure everything out by asking the teacher a whole bunch of questions. A good student is one that watches and copies, maintains things and plays himself.
"That’s one thing that I put in place when I came in and started watching him for the first few months. I was like, 'I want to be like that.' Manny has no intention to rush when he’s hitting and that’s what makes him so good. That’s what I picked up and that’s what I wanted to be like. As a young player, you think sometimes for you to rush things is going to make you a better player and that’s not what it is."
Then there was the other part of the package, the mental approach that helped fend off the kind of slings and arrows that Ortiz often had to try and help Ramirez explain away when the mercurial outfielder wouldn't talk for himself. Ramirez might have not been there while Ortiz had to answer his own questions, but that didn't mean the outfielder didn't have an effect on his former teammate's answers.
"Manny’s not that kind of guy that he’s insecure and things like that. He doesn’t bring that around. He brings you positivity, he brings you legacy, he brings you trust to believe in yourself, and that’s all the kind of stuff that I learned from Manny," Ortiz said. "I mean if you see my past few years here, I’ve been facing a situation that not many players can go back up from and be like 'I’m back.' Then you have people hitting you just for you to back up even more and get deeper, and I found a way how to get up. I learned that from watching [Manny]. I learned from just watching him. The guy is just amazing at doing it."
And Friday Ortiz, and the rest of those who lived through Ramirez' time with the Red Sox, will be reminded of it all once again.